Emiko Okada

The Atomic Bomb was Developed by Human Beings And Also Dropped by Human Beings

2. August 6, 1945

In 1945, my sister was 12, and I was 8 and a third grader.  My two brothers were 5 and 3.  On August 6, as an air-raid warning was issued early in the morning, my family went into the air-raid shelter dug in our garden.  Soon, the air raid warning was lifted.  “Lifting” was the word which made us children feel that we were alive and gave us joy that we were still living.  After we went out of the shelter, my father hurried to school to take his students to a building mobilization site in the Danbara area (present Minami-ku).  My sister, a student of the First Prefectural Girls’ Middle School, also went out to a building mobilization site in Dobashi (present Naka-ku, about 800m from the hypocenter.)  “See you later” were her last words to us.

My mother, two brothers and I stayed home, eating breakfast.  My brothers said that they saw an airplane flying from Mt. Futaba.  They thought it was a Japanese fighter plane, rushed to go out and waved their hands at it.   From inside our house, my mother and I saw the shining silver plane flying from Mt. Futaba to the center of the city.  The moment I thought, “Oh!  A fighter plane!”, there was a flash outside.  It seemed like magnesium was burned just in front of my eyes.  Survivors often call the A-bombing Pika-don, which comes from the flash, pika, and the sound, don, but I didn’t hear any sound at all.  I only remember that the moment I thought “a fighter plane!”, I was blown outside, together with shattered window glass and pieces of wood.  Then I fainted.

I don’t know how long I lay unconscious.  When I came to, I found our house was leaning, with the side wall blown off.  There was only the roof on the leaning pillars.  My mother lay on the floor of the kitchen, screaming.  She had pieces of glass all over her body and was covered in blood.  I think I came to because of her screaming. 

Although my brothers were outside, the older one was not injured.  I am not sure if it was because he was under the eaves or because he was standing just behind a big fig tree.  The other brother was burned on his right arm.  I am often asked about my condition at that time, but I don’t remember at all whether I was injured or burned.

In the afternoon, I saw a fire coming closer to us from the direction of the station.  There was a futon bedding factory in our neighborhood which had a large amount of cotton.  When the fire reached there, the flames increased its power all at once.  We decided to go to the designated air-raid tunnel shelter dug on the side of Mt. Futaba and rushed there.  On our way, so many bodies lay scattered that we could not find anywhere to step.  Finally, we arrived at the shelter after stepping on and over the bodies, but the shelter was full of soldiers and there was no space for us.  We had no choice but to turn back the way we had come to head for the East Military Drill Grounds.  We saw a lot of people fleeing from the center of the city, who were all naked for some reason.  They were burned all over and blistered, and looked like ghosts, not human beings.  Countless bodies lay in the Drill Grounds, and we could not find the space to step.  Two horses also died of burns there.  While my two brothers and I stayed there, my mother went to the center of the city to look for my sister, without success.  The next day, we went back to our house.  Fortunately, the fire stopped just at the side of our house. It was not burned but full of debris.  It was impossible to stay there, so we went back to the Drill Grounds.

On that day, my sister was in Dobashi for the building demolition.  Later we heard that all the students of the First Prefectural Girls’ Middle School who had been working there went westward to Koi after the bombing.  Some of them fell off from the railway bridge over the Tenma River which had escaped the flames, and were washed away in the river.  Others fell down with exhaustion at the bank of the Yamate River just before they crossed it.  Although the rest made it to Koi Elementary School, all of them died the next day.

Before we knew that, my mother frantically went out to look for my sister every day.  My two brothers and I were left at the East Military Drill Grounds.  To keep off hunger, we ate tomatoes planted there and stole figs in the neighborhood.  We ate everything which looked edible.  Of course, we didn’t know that it was polluted by radiation.  At night, we had no choice but to sleep with the wounded bodies in the Drill Grounds.  Frantic screaming and groaning never stopped around us.  Strangely, I was not scared at all. 

At the time of the A-bombing, my father was demolishing a building with his students in Danbara.  The damage was slight in Danbara because it was blocked by Hijiyama Hill.  Injured and burned people escaped there from the center of the city.  We heard later that my father and his students had been taking care of them at some houses for two days.  All they could do was just get cotton yukata kimono and bed sheets from drawers and closets of neighbors’ houses, tear them and put them on wounds as bandages.  Two days later, he came back to school with his students in the evening.  He dismissed them and came back to where we were staying.  All the school buildings had burned down.